When passion, youth and infinite potential come together and burn too brightly,
there comes a day when a price must be paid.
In the cold hard light of day the warm flame of life can be cruelly snuffed out at any time.
Northern Ireland Opera announces the return of live opera performances with a unique and exhilarating new production of Puccini’s La Bohème this September. The staging of one of the most loved and timeless masterpieces in the operatic canon marks Cameron Menzies’ first production in front of live audiences since he joined Northern Ireland Opera as Artistic Director midway through the pandemic in February this year.
This bold new interpretation will be brought to life inside the iconic Carlisle Memorial Church in Belfast across four evenings. A historic focal point in the city, this beautifully decayed church provides the perfect atmospheric backdrop to tell the story about a group of Bohemians who are all searching and desperately trying to find their way in life and love.
Cameron says: “The themes of youthful hope, the pursuit of connection, love and the very real and human desire for relationships, paired with some of the most stunning composition in the history of opera, seems to be what our audiences need right now both in terms of relevance and potency.”
Of the venue Cameron adds: “We are so fortunate to be able to create this new socially-distanced production inside a building that has had a rather varied and bohemian existence of its own. I already feel that the power of the building and how it stands in its own slightly broken and faded beauty is the absolute perfect grasp to safely and lovingly hold this opera.”
La Bohème is part of a surprising and varied launch programme selected by Cameron for 2021/22 and will lead Northern Ireland Opera into an exciting new era under his artistic direction. Cameron’s award-winning career spans the worlds of opera, theatre, music theatre, cabaret and film-making.
Northern Ireland Opera is an award-winning national opera company, and widely acclaimed as one of the most exciting operatic start-ups in UK and Irish history. With a philosophy of artistic excellence and risk-taking, underpinned by a bold and imaginative approach to programming and productions.
The Full Creative team and Casting will be announced shortly.
La Bohème will be performed live in front of socially distanced audiences across 4 nights.
Northern Ireland Opera Studio is delighted to introduce the six new creative and technical Studio members for 2021/2022.
These Studio members will be able to experience working on main stage productions, masterclasses, mentoring and will work with the Studio’s opera singers, who will be announced in July, to create a range of events and smaller productions across the year of their Studio membership. Northern Ireland Opera is grateful to interview panelists Choreographer Jennifer Rooney and Designer Leslie Travers for bringing their vast expertise to the panel and to helping Northern Ireland Opera make this year’s Studio selection from the many impressive candidate interviews and presentations.
Top Row L-R: Andrea Ferran; Theatre and Opera Director, Zara Jackson; Stage Manager, Bethan McDonnell; Costume Designer Bottom Row L-R: Michael McEvoy; Choreographer, Matthew Quinn; Conductor, Roisin Whelan; Choreographer
Cameron Menzies, Artistic Director of Northern Ireland Opera comments, “Northern Ireland Opera is very proud to offer these brand-new paid training opportunities for creative and technical young artists through our NI Opera Studio programme. Creating these opportunities is a cornerstone in our commitment to developing and maintaining our local artists and the arts sector. These creative and technical practitioners will have the opportunity of working across all of the NI Opera programming, from our main stage work, recital and concert work, our Associate Artists programme, Outreach projects, our film content and they will also have the opportunity to produce work of their own in collaboration with the NI Opera Studio’s opera singers: the new intake will be announced in July. We are very proud to include these six remarkable artists as part of the NI Opera Studio and we look forward to being about the showcase their extraordinary work for you in the next year.”
Northern Ireland Opera is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said, “The Arts Council is immensely proud to support Northern Ireland Opera and the NI Opera Studio Programme, thanks to National Lottery players. As a development agency for the arts in the region, we are committed to providing valuable and meaningful opportunities for artists, musicians and creative practitioners to develop their professional careers. The NI Opera Studio offers an incredible opportunity for creatives to take that all important next step in their career and we wish everyone involved every success.”
Northern Ireland Opera commissions an ambitious new teen/young adult opera written by Fionnuala Kennedy and composed by Neil Martin
Northern Ireland Opera has commissioned a new teen/young adult opera which is being created in collaboration with campaign groups led by young people experiencing housing stress across Northern Ireland and will be performed by Northern Ireland Opera and the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2022 with workshop versions of the piece being performed at the Belfast Children’s Festival in 2022.
Fionnuala Kennedy commented, ‘This new opera is inspired by the difficult situations faced by families in housing stress here and the incredible activism from these young people to speak their truth to power, expose the issues and offer solutions to transform the potential for housing and equal rights here. I will have a front row seat to a number of campaign groups led by young people looking at housing rights and housing provision (or lack thereof) in the north of Ireland. These young people include those living in sheltered accommodation, refugees and those seeking asylum and those in housing stress, not only campaigning for housing rights locally but supporting and working with other housing and human rights activists in Cork, Galway, Edinburgh, London, Cape Town and Johannesburg. I’m always grateful to get the opportunity to be inspired by and create work for and about young people – this bold new opera celebrates the resilience, activism and power of a generation trying to change our world for the better.’
Composer Neil Martin said, ‘To be now engaging in the first steps of writing this new opera is exhilarating beyond words – collaborating with new partners in production, outreach and performance, addressing essential subject matter…the potential to challenge both young people and society as whole through this opera is limitless.’
Northern Ireland Opera have been able to commission this new opera with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Stability and Renewal Fund. The opera is being written and composed by Fionnuala Kennedy and Neil Martin in collaboration with campaigners who are mostly between the ages of 13 and 19. Northern Ireland Opera will perform this opera with the young musicians of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, which is another unique element to this project. As the piece is being created specifically for the 13-19 year old age group, it is important for this audience to see themselves reflected on stage in all facets of theatre-making.
This is a piece created by and speaking for teens and young adults from Northern Ireland who are of a similar age, but whose different life experiences can, we hope, enhance each other’s understanding and engagement with the creative and performance process, amplifying their message and music to a wide audience.
We are currently working with opera singer and educator Emma Morwood, who is writing and creating outreach programmes linked to this production, both during the creating and the presentation stages of the work. These programmes will be open to all participants involved with the production, including collaborators, youth orchestra players and Northern Ireland Opera’s outreach partners in Belfast and beyond. We are also working closely with the Welcome Organisation to ensure that our interactions with young people experiencing housing stress are appropriately and sensitively managed.
Paula Klein, General Manager of UYO said, “The Ulster Youth Orchestra is thrilled to be a partner in Northern Ireland Opera’s new youth opera commission. Collaborating with writer Fionnuala Kennedy and composer Neil Martin will be a wonderful experience for our young players and we are so excited to be able to offer them this unique opportunity after such a long time in musical hibernation. We’re very much looking forward to being a part of it!”
Cameron Menzies, AD of Northern Ireland Opera said “For a long while now I have noticed the lack of work designed specifically for the teen/young adult age groups in relation to music and storytelling through opera. Opera companies generally focus a lot of outreach attention on very young and early school age children. These programs are designed to open up young people’s experiences within the arts and with storytelling through music so I feel we must look at how we develop these programs to also include and engage with the ages of 13 – 19. Our new commission will deal with this directly, by including these age groups in the creation of an opera that is designed specifically with them in mind. We are delighted to be working with the unique and powerful talents of Fionnuala Kennedy (Libretto) and Neil Martin (Composer). While this opera will be based very much within the young voices of Northern Ireland, we know that an opera like this will also have a far-reaching global impact.’’
Jo Wright, ACNI added, ‘’This new commission is supported through our Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, a vital emergency funding scheme funded by the Department for Communities, to help arts and cultural organisations respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work and plan for recovery. This funding has enabled Northern Ireland Opera to gather together a wealth of talent to develop a brand new work that gives voice to young people who are facing extremely difficult circumstances. This important work demonstrates the power of collaboration and in using the arts as a tool to open discussion around challenging subjects and stimulate change for the better. Congratulations to everyone involved and we look forward to experiencing this new opera in the future.’’
Northern Ireland Opera’s Artistic Director, Cameron Menzies, was recently interviewed for UTV Life, talking about his move to Northern Ireland from Melbourne and the creation of our ambitious new cinematic project, ‘Old Friends and Other Days’ which will be available later this spring. ‘Old Friends and Other Days’ was created with Resilience and Stability Funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Watch his interview with UTV’s Rita Fitgerald via the link below from 7 minutes in. Mezzo soprano Carolyn Dobbin who is one of four opera singers from Northern Ireland who perform in ‘Old Friends and Other Days’ is also interviewed by Rita, plus exclusive clips from the trailer and behind the scenes images from the making of the film in Belfast’s Carlisle Memorial Church.
Northern Ireland Opera are now accepting applications for the Vocal Competition and Peter Rankin Pianist Internship at the Glenarm Festival of Voice 2021, taking place from Thursday 26th August until Sunday 29th August 2021.
The closing date for all applications is 6 p.m. on Friday 21st May 2021, and the finalists and pianist will be announced in June. For more details, email Clíona Donnelly on email@example.com or please call the Northern Ireland Opera office on 028 9027 7734.
Five finalists will have the opportunity to work on their repertoire with opera professionals from Thursday 26th August and attend all festival events before performing in the Competition Finale on Sunday 29th August for the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize before a distinguished jury. The festival’s vocal competition is open to singers aged 18-28 born in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, and entrants are required to be studying voice at 3rd level or privately and pursuing a career in opera. First prize for the winner of the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize is £2500. The winner of the Audience Prize receives £500.
Singers should submit two arias, one Baroque or Classical, and one of their own choice which should be in two different languages (one of which may be English). They must also submit a song composed or arranged by an Irish composer of the 20th or 21st century. Please submit a recording of your singing/playing that has not been used for any other competition applications or that has not been uploaded onto a social media platform. Recordings must date from 12th April 2021 to 21st May 2021 to get an accurate idea of how you are currently singing.
CDs or MP3 files should be accompanied by a short CV and sent by email to Clíona Donnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by post to: Clíona Donnelly, General Manager, Northern Ireland Opera, Grand Opera House, Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7HR
Peter Rankin Pianist Internship
The pianist will have the opportunity to work with opera professionals, play for coaching sessions, and attend all festival events. Northern Ireland Opera welcomes applications from pianists aged 18-28 born in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, and entrants are required to be studying music at 3rd level or privately and pursuing a career in music. Interested applicants should send a CV and covering letter, stating how the opportunity would be valuable to them, to Clíona Donnelly at the details above.
Find out more about the Glenarm Festival of Voice here.